Toot that horn, Trump.

The U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs in February, well above expectations, while wage growth moderated to 2.6%.

Economists had expected growth in nonfarm payrolls of 200,000, based on a survey by data provider FactSet. 

The wage increase was below economists' forecasts for a 2.8% gain over the past 12 months. The unemployment rate held at a 17-year low of 4.1% for the fifth straight month; economists had expected the rate to drop to 4%. 

The report could damp speculation that growth in workers' average earnings, which has been elusive as economic growth accelerates, might push the Federal Reserve to speed up its pace of interest-rate increases to keep the economy from overheating and tamp down inflation. A report last month that wages rose 2.9% from the prior year rattled markets, as some traders bet the central bank might raise rates by a quarter percentage point four times this year, instead of the three hikes forecast by Fed officials. 

Futures contracts on the Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.8% after the report, implying gains when the stock market opens on Friday.

"This gives the Fed a little bit of breathing room and allows them to normalize at a gradual pace," said Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist at money manager Allianz Investment Management in Minneapolis.  

Fed policymakers have been flummoxed by stubbornly low inflation readings, even with unemployment low and President Donald Trump's tax cuts set to deliver a windfall to U.S. companies. Demand for workers typically leads to wage increases, seen as a key driver of consumer price increases. 

Fed officials, led by Chairman Jerome Powell, said they plan to keep the economy from overheating, while signaling in recent statements that the pace of rate increases would be "gradual."

The central bank's monetary-policy committee raised interest rates three times in 2017, bringing the target to a range of 1.25% to 1.5% from near zero before the central bank started the current hiking cycle in late 2015. A rate increase at a Fed meeting this month is deemed by most traders to be a near certainty.

"To the extent that they can continue at the slow gradual pace they're at right now, that should be good for markets," Ripley said. 

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